- - Sunday, April 14, 2013


Jenna Maroney: “You’ve created two Lizzes: Regular Liz and Performer Liz. You’ve got to lie to her, coddle her, protect her from the real world.”

Jack Donaghy: “I get it — treat her like The New York Times treats its readers!”

— NBC’s “30 Rock”

Sometimes, the nation’s reporters perform their duties to the highest degree: They root out corruption, uncover scandal, speak truth to power.

But increasingly, America’s “journalists” are falling well short of what the Founders envisioned when they sought to ensure a democracy kept honest by a free and vibrant press.

It’s no surprise when outlets such as MSNBC and PBS simply toe the administration’s line (although it should be), and once-grand institutions like The New York Times are years past making any pretense that it’s not just a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party.

Yet what is ever more evident each passing year is the breadth of the press corps’ shortcomings. Now, there seem to be very few news organizations that care about that “free and vibrant press.”

Take Jana Winter. She is a Fox News reporter who broke a major story after James Holmes went on a shooting spree last summer at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, killing 12. Days after the attack, she reported that the “Joker” had sent a notebook to a psychiatrist before the shootings, “full of details about how he was going to kill people.”

Her sources: two unnamed law enforcement officials. But in recent days, as the case makes its way through the courts, lawyers for Mr. Holmes have demanded that she disclose their identities, arguing that they violated a court order restricting public access to information.

In past cases, media outlets have banded together: Often, a handful join in legal filings seeking to prevent such disclosure, understanding that losing one case in one state has a detrimental effect in all cases across America.

Miss Winter’s story was published in July. The New York Times only weighed in last week after conservative news outlets noted the paper’s silence. Former Times reporter Judith Miller, once jailed for 85 days for refusing to divulge sources, said if Miss Winter “worked for mainstream newspapers or CNN, I think the case would have been covered. There’s a certain reluctance because it’s Fox News.”

Or take the illegal bugging scandal last week of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A group of campaign workers and aides were illegally taped during a strategy session on potential foe Ashley Judd — in which they discussed (gasp!) using the singer’s own words against her.

The Washington Post, breakers of the world’s most famous bugging story, pooh-poohed the story, calling the illegal tape “audio gold” and “a scoop.” The paper said Mother Jones reporter David Corn “unearthed the audiotape of a private meeting.” Unearthed? He did nothing but pick up the phone when a source called to offer an illegal recording.

Rush Limbaugh accurately predicted that the media would be far more interested in the tape’s contents than how the recording was obtained. Right on cue, liberal sniveler David Weigel wrote a story in Slate headlined: “Mitch McConnell Won’t Stop Saying That the Left Was ‘Bugging’ His Campaign Office.”

Calling the recording a “secret tape,” he wrote that “McConnell and the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] have moved aggressively to judo-flip the story, turning it from a question of offense or gaffes — which, to be fair, didn’t come from McConnell’s mouth in the tape — to a story of illegal bugging.”

The story has quickly faded, especially after a local Democratic Party offshoot called Progress Kentucky was implicated.

Most egregious of all, though, has been the lack of coverage on the “House of Horror” trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Gruesome testimony includes charges that the doctor “beheaded” living babies during late-term abortions, “repeatedly sliced the necks of born babies in front of a teenage employee, and once told his longtime assistant … that a writhing born baby whose neck he had just severed was like a ‘chicken with its head cut off,’” according to one account from the conservative CNSnews.com.

Another conservative website, breitbart.com, last week ran a picture of completely empty rows of courtroom benches marked “Reserved Media Seating.” In addition, a reporter from The Washington Post (again) called the trial a “local crime” story.

Well, it’s a local crime story in the way that the trial of Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy once were. While Gosnell is charged with eight counts of murder, there are reports that he killed as many as 100 babies, which, if true, would put him in the top five of U.S. serial killers. One helluva “local crime” story.

For at least the first three weeks, CBS, ABC and NBC ran zero stories about the trial. Newsbusters’ Tom Blumer noted that The Associated Press did not use the “abortion” slug with any of its stories. And Josh Dzieza of The Daily Beast wrote that “activists” have “pointed to Gosnell as an example of what would happen if legal clinics are closed and women are forced to go underground, so for them, publicizing it is a wash.”

At least America’s media are always surprising: Just when you think they can’t get any worse, they do.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times and is now editor of the Drudge Report. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and @josephcurl.

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